Viewing the surreal video footage from the iconic 1969 Woodstock festival this weekend made me ponder: what can we learn from those peace-lovin’, pot-smokin’ hippies?
A lot, man.
I mean, those cats were the coolest. There they were, stuck in a farmer’s field for three days, with little food or water—and here’s the part that really gets me—extremely limited access to washrooms. But did they get angry? Not from what I saw.
In the midst of all the chaos that ensued when 500,000 people unexpectedly showed up, those mild-mannered, music-lovin’, so-called “freaks” didn’t get uptight, man. And while this could’ve been directly related to the mass quantities of pot that were circulating, they stayed mellow, happily sharing whatever food or water they had with others, while grooving to the music.
When Mother Nature sent a rainstorm, they made mudslides, taking turns sliding around on the slippery, soaked ground. And when they got muddy, they bathed in the nearby stream. It was no big deal, man.
If Woodstock were to happen today, 95 per cent of the crowd would miss most of those once-in-a-lifetime performances, staring zombie-like at their cell phones.
And like, when did we get so angry, man? I mean, I wasn’t at Woodstock, but to my knowledge, there were no mass shootings, or even violent incidents, despite the water and food—and washroom—deprivation.
Put half a million people in one place today and you are asking for trouble, man.
Even with pot being legal now—which I’m sure those freewheeling hippies would’ve never in a million years predicted—we’ve morphed from party line and land line phone owners to cell phone obsessed, road-raged, miserable, violence addicts.
We don’t flash the peace sign.
We flash the finger.
There was poor Joan Baez, six months pregnant while performing at Woodstock, and her husband was in federal prison for draft evasion. But was she angry?
Possibly. Still, she’s known not only for being a passionate singer songwriter, but a peace activist, something we could desperately use a lot more of today.
Baez said, “You don’t get to choose how you’re going to die. Or when. You can only decide how you’re going to live. Now.”
We seriously need to chill, man.
In the immortal words of Joni Mitchell, “We are stardust; we are golden.”
Mitchell wrote the famed Woodstock anthem based on what she’d heard from her then-boyfriend Graham Nash about the festival, watching televised reports of it from her New York City hotel room. She’d missed Woodstock herself, since a manager had advised her it would be more advantageous for her to appear on The Dick Cavett Show.
"The deprivation of not being able to go provided me with an intense angle on Woodstock," she told an interviewer.
In the documentary Joni Mitchell: Woman of Heart and Mind, David Crosby said Mitchell had captured the feeling and importance of Woodstock better than anyone who’d actually been there.
Mitchell’s lyrics describe a spiritual journey to Max Yasgur's farm, the festival site, and contain sacred imagery, comparing the farm with the Garden of Eden ("And we've got to get ourselves back to the garden"). The song starts with the narrator's encounter of a fellow traveller ("Well, I came upon a child of God, he was walking along the road") and concludes at their destination ("By the time we got to Woodstock, we were half a million strong").
References to the Vietnam War ("bombers riding shotgun in the sky...") compare the peaceful intent of the festival-goers ("...turning into butterflies above our nation") in Mitchell’s masterpiece.
Sadly, while there will always be people who make the world a better place--with music, and people who sit peacefully and enjoy it, there will always be those few violent morons who want to blow their fellow man to smithereens. We haven’t learned a bloody thing from the past; as rampant racism, rage and violence have escalated to bone-chilling proportions in 2019.
I hope with all my heart it’s not true, but I recently heard there are 125,000 people who are united in their current mission to “Make Germany hate again.”
And while the asinine trigger-happy war-mongers attempt to destroy the planet, the rest of us sane, laidback pacifists will continue to unite, to share our music, water, food, and—in the absence of washrooms—our Depends.